A misleading front page story went viral on social media pages last week, causing great angst for Cape York tourism operators.
The Cairns Post ran the headline “CAPE ACCESS DENIED”, with a story pointing to a number of Cape York locations that were closed to visitors.
Before most people had woken for their morning coffee, the blogs and social media platforms had lit up with the news that Cape York was being closed to tourists.
Of course, that’s completely wrong and the Cairns Post knows it, but it chose to run the story that way regardless of the facts.
Weipa Camping Ground owner Brooke Quartermaine has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours promoting Cape York as a destination and said she was floored by the front page story.
“There was so little care for what the repercussions could be for Cape York people,” she said.
“Especially after the year we had last year when we were basically closed off for most of our tourist season.
“There was just no care given about the impact that the headline could create. It was just sensationalism.”
Ms Quartermaine said Cape York was expecting its biggest year for tourism and that it was important that people knew that 95 per cent of the region’s camping spots were open to visitors.
“You can still go to the Tip, you can still go to Weipa, to Lakefield National Park, to the Old Telegraph Track,” she said.
“All the roadhouses and stations are going to be open for business.”
Western Cape Eco Tours is also expecting a massive year, with bookings starting in April.
“We’ve got all the tour companies coming up and booking seats and there are plenty of travellers locking in spots now,” owner Lisa Hill said.
“Cape York is very much open for business this year and we think it’ll be a massive year for tourism, as long as the borders stay open.”
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said he was disappointed people were misled to think that Cape York was closed to tourists, although had a dig at some of the site closures.
“The state government needs to make sure that every single national park is opened up,” he said.
“They also need to get that road graded and ready to go as soon as the rain stops.
“It was bad enough when they closed off the Cape last year. We need it to stay open, along with the borders.”
Tourists should be educated about doing the right thing when visiting Cape York, Ms Quartermaine said.
“This year we are going to get a lot of people coming up that have never really been on a big camping trip before,” she said.
“Instead of going to Bali, they will end up here.
“So we need to educate them about respecting country, how to dispose of waste properly and give them as much information as possible about how to do the right thing.
“I know all Cape York operators have an interest in making sure that the Cape is looked after because we don’t want to see any site closures.
“But we understand that people have done the wrong thing and respect that decision.”
Highlighting the Cairns Post’s lack of local knowledge, Easter has never been a busy time of the year for Cape York.
“The roads are usually still closed or in bad shape. Easter is more for the locals,” Ms Quartermaine said.
“It’s our last hurrah to get out and go camping before the place is filled with traffic and tourists.”
She said the pressure was on TMR to get the Peninsula Developmental Road fixed after the wet season as soon as possible.
“It can’t be too far off as we are starting to see dragonflies and get the easterly winds – that’s the local sign that the wet season is coming to an end.”
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 15 March 2021.